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Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Premier League

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On This Day (19 Jan 2013): Sunderland beat Wigan – but it’s Martin O’Neill’s last win as boss

Sunderland dominated the Latics to record their fifth Premier League win in eight...

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Back on this day 11 years ago, we turned in a convincing display at the DW Stadium to claim a good away win that was a lot closer than the 3-2 scoreline suggests.

It was our fifth win in eight Premier League games, with only defeats away to Manchester United and Liverpool, and at home to Spurs, blotting the copybook over the festive period. Victories at home to Reading, Manchester City and West Ham, and away to Southampton, had propelled Martin O’Neill’s side up to 14th place, while victory on pie eater territory had lifted us up to 11th.

O’Neill had arrived on Wearside more than a year ago, and it looked as it we were getting truly on track – albeit a little more slowly than some would like – but on track all of the same. We’d weathered a poor run of results in October-November and finished the Christmas period strongly.

We looked as if we were only heading in one direction – and, if you’d told any of the 4800 Wearsiders after this game that it would be O’Neill’s last victory as Sunderland boss, you’d have been politely told where to go.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

With O’Neill steering the ship, we looked firmly on course to progress. Despite David Vaughan’s fourth minute own goal, we steadied and responded in the fashion of a ‘proper’ team. Craig Gardner’s penalty – our first for 34 games, almost a full season – levelled things on 17. Larsson’s free kick was handled by McCarthy, and Gardner struck home with typical assurance.

We took the lead moments later. Alfred N’Diaye – remember him? – was making his first start. A rangy and robust midfielder, N’Diaye looked as though he could be a real gem. Yes, he was raw, but he had all of the attributes you need from a central midfielder. He crossed for Fletcher, who saw his header saved, but was able to put in the rebound.

N’Diaye would go on to make just 15 starts for the lads – he was one of many that was deemed not good enough by Mr Di Canio – but on this showing, he looked like a top signing.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - DW Stadium Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

Before half time, Fletcher struck again. We were dominating, and the Scottish striker hit the top corner to make it 3-1. It was the first time we’d scored three first-half top-flight goals away from home since we beat Nottingham Forest 4-1 in 1996 – on that occasion, we’d scored four in the first 45, as Peter Reid’s side announced they were back.

In the second half, it was all Sunderland, and simply a matter of how many, as we toyed with Roberto Martinez’s side. However, we got a late scare, after Angelo Henriquez headed a late goal to make it 3-2. Henriquez was on loan from Manchester United, and this was the Chilean striker’s only ever league goal in English football.

The lads saw the game home and the three points lifted us up to 11th in the table.

However, eight games later – which had resulted in only three points and saw Sunderland slip back down the table to 16th after a home reverse to Manchester United – O’Neill’s tenure as Sunderland boss came to an abrupt end.

As it was, we’d have to wait three months for our next win – and that one was certainly worth waiting for...


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